Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's the End of the World As We Know It And I Feel Fine

By Eric Wagner

Environmentalists have never been very good at predicting the apocalypse, but that doesn’t keep us from trying. Such was the case in 1968, when Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb. Seven years later, he warned that hundreds of millions of people would starve due to widespread famine and that society would enter a “genuine age of scarcity.” But the bomb turned out to be a dud (at least in the near term), and the specter of mass starvation remained exactly that - a specter.

Still, doomsaying can be a hard habit to kick. In 1980, Ehrlich famously bet the economist Julian Simon that the prices of five metals (harbingers of resource shortages) would rise by decade’s end. But 1990 came and went, and the prices had actually dropped. While Ehrlich has since offered caveats - the price of oil doubled during the same decade, he notes - the fact remains that he gambled and lost.

All of which raises a question that makes environmentalists squirm: why has the human condition -  incontrovertibly and inconveniently, it would seem - gotten better and better, even as most ecosystem services have declined? In a recent BioScience paper, a team of researchers led by Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne of McGill University confronts this “environmentalist’s paradox.” 

The authors consider four possibilities. First, the numbers are wrong, and we actually aren’t doing fine. But they are quick to reject this. The Human Development Index has increased in all major regions of the world over the past 35 years, while the global poverty rate has dropped by nearly 75 percent. Even with the recent spate of local catastrophes - an inundated Pakistan, a scorched Russia - humans by almost any measure are living longer, healthier lives than ever before.

What about food, then? Few revolutions have matched the impact of the Green Revolution, and human well-being depends largely on having enough to eat. Since food availability is increasing, perhaps it overwhelms whatever other privations we suffer. But while all this is true, the authors consider food a factor in the paradox but not an explanation.

In a similar vein, maybe technology is the savior, having (as the authors put it) “decoupled well-being from nature.” But support for this idea is ambiguous at best. Even with advances in technology, we still depend on ecosystem services more than ever. And it’s not as though technologies make us less dependent on those services - rather, they tend to let us use more of them than we were able to before. Which is how we end up with things such as - oh, say - deep-sea oil drilling or fracking.

This leads to the fourth hypothesis: that we have not yet begun to feel the full brunt of our depredations, due to a time lag, and wholesale collapse may be just around the corner. This is at once the most plausible answer and the most frustrating. The authors purport to tackle something that makes us uncomfortable, but their lasting message is one that leaves us in a very comfortable place. The environment is going down the tubes. Even if we haven’t paid for it yet, we’re about to - just you wait! Sound familiar? It’s Ehrlich’s old gamble.

Article source here


Monday, February 25, 2013

Entering Space

Today the human race is a single twig on the tree of life, a single species on a single planet. Our condition can thus only be described as extremely fragile, endangered by forces of nature currently beyond our control, our own mistakes, and other branches of the wildly blossoming tree itself. Looked at this way, we can then pose the question of the future of humanity on Earth, in the solar system, and in the galaxy from the standpoint of both evolutionary biology and human nature. The conclusion is straightforward: Our choice is to grow, branch, spread and develop, or stagnate and die. - Robert Zubrin, Entering Space, 1999

In time, a Martian colony would grow to the point of being self- sustaining. When this stage was reached, humanity would have a precious insurance policy against catastrophe at home. During the next millennium there is a significant chance that civilization on Earth will be destroyed by an asteroid, a killer plague or a global war. A Martian colony could keep the flame of civilization and culture alive until Earth could be reverse- colonized from Mars. - Paul Davies, The New York Times, 2004

Image source here

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Celebration of Love

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to those who have found love, in whatever shape or form, and to those who are still hunting, don’t give up. If you feel bad, send yourself a card. You must be worth it… - Jeanette Winterson

Love is precious and should be celebrated every day. Never take love for granted! And do not forget to love yourself.
Wishing everyone happy and fabulous St. Valentine’s Day - Dominique ♥


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Year of the Snake

The snake is the symbol of yin or female energy in the Universe. The Snake is the sixth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 Animal Signs. It is the most enigmatic, intuitive, introspective, refined and collected of all the animals in the Chinese Zodiac.

2013 is the year of the black Snake. It begins on February 10th shortly after the New Moon in Aquarius. 

This 2013 year of Snake is meant to be a year of steady progress and attention to detail. Focus and discipline will be necessary for you to achieve what you set out to create. But be careful because the Year of the Snake may bring you many difficult puzzles and mysteries that will not be easy to solve.

Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve.  

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade. The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements.

The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving.

The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family.  

Wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous Year of the Snake - Dominique Allmon


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Quote of the Day

A corner of the Regency sofa in the Drawing Room at Felbrigg Hall - Norfolk, England
A corner of the Regency sofa in the 
Drawing Room at Felbrigg Hall - Norfolk, England

Although gold dust 
is precious, 
when it gets in your eyes 
it obstructs your 

Hsi-Tang Chih Tsang (735-814)
Chinese Zen Master

Image by David Kirkham
Image source here